This prayer of her's dates back to the 1800's. Yet, all these centuries later, it is my up-to-date plea. And I am comforted, because He heard her then, and He hears me now.
"Not that we loved God, BUT that He loved us."
- 1 John 4:10
"As precious balm, so came these blessed words into my dull and aching heart. Dear Lord, I thank You for them; You have taken them from Your own Book, and spoken them to me with Your living, loving voice, and they have quickened me.
I have brought to You, with shame and sorrow, a hard and insensible heart; I could only groan out before You my utter lack of both faith and feeling. The very desire to love you seemed to lie fettered ad powerless within me, only an occasional struggle revealing its bare existence. Then, Lord, while I knelt in Your presence, with bowed head and troubled spirit - tears and sighs my only prayers - You whispered those sweet words in my ear and they brought light and liberty to my captive soul. Blessed be Your dear Name for this glorious deliverance! It is not my poor, cold, half-hearted love that is to satisfy and comfort me; but Your love great and full, and free, and eternal as Yourself! Surely, I had known this before, Lord; but I had shut myself up in unbelief till, in Your sweet mercy, You spoke the word that released me from my chains, opened my prison doors, and let me out into the sunshine of true peace in believing.
'Not that we loved God.' No, and that is the sad wonder and mystery of the unrenewed life, Dearest Master. Not to have loved you, is our greatest guilt and shame. It is even worse than this with us, for we were enemies, by wicked works, to Him who claimed the most ardent and grateful love of our souls; we had put ourselves in an attitude of defiance against our Best Friend; or if not openly defiant, we were totally forgetful of Him to whom our heart's allegiance was justly due. "Not that we loved God." Ah, dearest Lord, you know how deeply, sadly true this was of me, and how I mourn over the years spent without love to You, and at a distance from You. O hard heart, O blind eyes, O poor dull sluggish soul, that could be unmindful of the strivings of God's Spirit, could deliberately neglect the pleadings of a Saviour's love, and see no beauty in One who is 'altogether lovely'!
'But that He loved us.' Here is a blessed contrast, here is the antidote for sin's sting, here is light after darkness, hope after despair, life after death! Lord, my soul flings itself on this glorious fact, this saving truth as a drowning man seizes upon a life-belt thrown to him in the surging sea. If You do not love me and lift me, I must perish forever. But there is no question of sinking when Jesus saves, no fear of losing life when He loves.
O my Lord, how I thank You for this precious word upon which You have caused me to hope! Now all the day long, my heart shall sing over the safety and blessedness of being freely loved, instead of fretting about the sad lack of my poor love to You. 'Not that we loved God' is darkness and bitterness, 'but that He loved us' is light and pardon, peace and everlasting life."
Amen, in Jesus' name.